Monday, August 29, 2011

Full Gallop Synopsis, Part II

Cross-country day (aka T-Shirt Time) dawned chilly and sunny. We have enjoyed a decent night’s sleep in a finally air-conditioned motor home and got to the barn around 5:30 a.m. First ride was Monkee at 8:07. He went out and despite leaving the start box late (that’s my boy!) he jumped around clean and fast. Perfect prep for a more difficult Intermediate course this weekend. Then Devon went out and jumped around clean….followed by Ardy…then Cory. What a bunch of rock stars! C couldn’t stop smiling about Ardy’s first Prelim…the horse is a beast! He knows it, too…he’s fit for the first time in his life and he’s found the ability to puff himself up well beyond his already HUGE stature and act like he’s king of the world. I’m perfectly happy letting him have the title as long as he keeps jumping like that!
So after a lot of waiting, waiting, waiting…it was Pop Star’s turn. I got VERY nervous and was shaking and sick to my stomach right before I got on…the anticipation was getting to me more than anything. Pop looked great in his black pad and black boots w blue tape, and I wore Lizzie’s black vest with aqua laces and trim. Warm-up was great…we just jumped three fences and he was spot on to all of them. Then we chilled beside the volunteer tent with C, Lizzie, and my Dad until we were called to go over to the start box. The volunteers at the start box were VERY friendly and complimented me on Pop (he’s SO pretty!!). Then with a good luck, the countdown began.

10….9….8….7….(Pop starts bouncing)…6…5…(enter start box)…4…3…2…1……..GO!!

He exploded out of there like a rocket and we flew over the first fence. Galloped down and went to make a right hand turn to Fence 2, and Poppers was on the left lead and locked on to an Intermediate fence straight ahead. Really had to sit and wrench him around and was talking to him the whole time… “This one’s ours, bud!” We chipped to 2 because I was so busy picking at him with my hands. Same thing with fence 3. Fence 4 was a lot better and so was 5…then we went around to 6, which he was a little crooked to but willing..then 7 which was another sharp right hand turn (with him on the left lead booking it), but we made it over. Then down a big hill to Fence 8, which was the ditch. He literally never hesitated and we flew over it…bye bye, ditch phobia! Up a hill and down a hill to fence 9, which was through a hedge of brush. Fence 10 was beautiful and we galloped around to the water…galloped through the water (splash splash splash) and out over Fence 12.

13 and 14 were my favorite jumps on course. You had to come around the bend, hug the brush and then make a right angle turn left to 13 (he was perfect!), then 6 strides to an up bank. He attacked it! I didn’t even have time to be nervous about it. Up and around the bend to 15, jumped it beautifully. By this point we had found our rhythm. 16 was fine, 17 was tough because it landed down a hill but he balanced himself beautifully for it and then we really galloped up the massive hill to 18, where our “fan club” was standing! Hit the distance perfectly, flew over and heard cheers for US! One fence to go….he was on his left lead again and not listening to my aids to turn right for Fence 19…I managed to get him turned in time and then through the finish flags! WOO HOOO!!!!! GOOD BOY!!!!

I had forgotten the adrenaline rush you get from this sport. This is what I’ve been missing from my life. I can’t tell you how blessed I feel to have this horse, the opportunity to compete, and the most amazing support group anyone could ever hope for.

We finished 7th. We had one of the fastest times in our division (whoops, hehe) so that’s something to think about this weekend. I have a good idea of things to work on and things that need improving and most of all, I know I can do this. I’m not petrified anymore. I have confidence in myself and my horse. We belong as much as anyone else, and believe me, this is WELL worth being completely broke for the rest of my life.

Thanks for all of YOUR support through this blog, and stay tuned for this weekend at Five Points! Take care!!


Sunday, August 28, 2011

Full Gallop Synopsis, Part 1

I typed this up last night on my phone and it was eaten, so here's the best I can come up with now that I'm drained and filthy and in desperate need of sleep. Bear with me!

Let's start by saying that after Friday night, I honestly thought our chances of having a good weekend were long gone. It'll take an entire post to tell you of that night, but let's just say it involved four phone calls at once, two GPS's full of lies, the ghetto, and no AC for an entire night. Nevertheless, we made it through. I flatted Pop lightly that afternoon and despite the chaos of the arena (one mare spinning and bolting every time we passed her, among other things) he was focused and very well behaved. He was really nice and forward and soft at first, but then we took a walk break and when we went back to work he was super poky. Silly pony. We did a little more work and then headed back to the barn (and the Hell that awaited us.)

Saturday...started bright and early as we had our first test at 8 a.m. Devon was a little wound up but still scored quite well in the Prelim. Ardy had a good test for his first Prelim and Ben was also very good in his first Prelim w H. Monkee was excellent and got a 32 in his Intermediate test, which we were very happy about! Guppy, as usual, had a beautiful test in Training...then it was Popopop's turn. I had been nervous but the second I got on his back I was okay. He felt so relaxed and chill that I relaxed, too. We had a good warm-up and then it was Show Time. We said a friendly hello to our judge and went right in.

Enter A working trot. We got a 6, it was very straight and lovely until we had to track right at C. The comment says "lost balance at C" and I would definitely agree with that. I don't know if I just let him get behind my leg or what but he turned and we lost all impulsion and balance. Luckily we got it back quickly but then had to turn right at B and left at E...I felt like he was fairly straight to E and then maybe fell in a bit tracking left (he's naturally bent to the right) but we got a 7 and "softer across topline". Next was a 20-meter circle at A, we got a 6 (circle too small)...I knew the circle wasn't right. I had forgotten the size of the small arena really makes things feel distorted! I have to review my geometry before Five Points, for sure. Next was a canter depart between A and F (7, "tight") and then another 20 meter at B (6, first half of circle too small...again!)...then a trot transition between B and M (6, braced). My elbows and wrists get a bit rigid in the left lead canter and I'm sure that's why he braced there. E, turn left and B, turn right, we got a 6 (tight at E, needs closer to B). I totally agree and I knew I cut the turn to B, I didn't feel like I had him in front of my leg and I was worried about getting to B and losing his trot entirely, so I cut the corner (bad!). Another 20 meter circle at A, 7 (needs softer topline and larger circle...AGAIN!!!). Then an *8* on our canter depart (YAY!!!!). Canter circle at E, 6 (1st part circle small (sound familar?) lazy canter (agreed). 7 on downward transition (better preparation needed). 5 on our walk transition (you had it...something illegible. I did get a bit of a jig so maybe that's what she was referring to? It was a perfect transition but then I had too much leg!). A very disappointing 5 on our free walk :( I thought it was a really good free walk and the comment is illegible, so I can't even figure out why we scored that 5. I will had more stretch and more forward next time, though. 7 on our trot down centerline and 5 on our halt (apparently his hind legs were crossed. I must confess I had never halted him from a trot, so I was just proud it was fairly straight!). Our additional comments were "Lovely horse, continue to work on consistency in movements and gaits. Good luck." Not too bad for our first test together! We got a 36.5 which put us in a tie for 8th place. I was so proud of his effort and proud of myself, time we'll be a bit better prepared for the size of the arena and how fast the movements come up!

Back to the barn for a rest before our stadium round. I had walked the course once and it looked good except for one bending line that was a 6 stride. I was just a little concerned about him drifting left and missing the turn. He warmed up PERFECTLY...very forward to the base of the fence. He felt like a totally different horse from home...focused and forward and confident. We headed in after a short warm-up. Really got him going in the canter and we were off! The first fence rode beautifully, we got a good distance and landed on the left lead...the 2nd fence was a sharp right hand turn, so I attempted a lead didn't happen. Crap. So I abandoned that idea and just went for the turn on the counter canter. Luckily, he's about as handy as they come and we jumped it well. 3 was an oxer and he jumped that SUPER, then to 4 (a vertical that started the bending line). I was convinced he would leave long to I jumped...he literally stutter-stepped off the ground. GOOD BOY. He should've stopped...DEFINITELY my fault. I had lost my canter and forgotten to move him up to the distance so when we got there he was prepared to add. Thank God he's forgiving, I landed on the buckle and just pushed him on to the next fence in the bending line, which he chipped but he jumped it well. I landed and patted him and yelled "MY fault!!!" He jumped 7 and 8 flawlessly, back in a rhythm, and I had all the confidence in the world over 9 and then 10A and B, a two-stride...never jumped a combination on him but he was right on the money and got a HUGE pat and a "GOOD GOOD MAN!!!!!" as we crossed through the finish flags. Clean. WHAT a fun ride! I couldn't stop patting him on the way home! All my butterflies were gone and I couldn't believe how much fun it was. We headed home for a bath, wraps and foot packing for the night. Tied for 7th at this point.

(Everyone else show jumped beautifully...Benny had to be scratched bc of feet issues...the ground was ROCK hard and not good for him at all and with him running this weekend too at Five Points, H wanted to save him. Good decision!)

Stay tuned for the rundown from cross-country day :)

Tuesday, August 23, 2011


Today was our last jump school before Full Gallop this weekend, and I was determined that it would not be like our jump schools before. There would be no helpless clinging as Pop went left and fit in a stride and had to make a huge effort to clear a 2’3” fence. There would be no lack of planning before and after the fence. I wouldn’t say “go, go, go” until 3 strides out and then stop riding. I would be clear and concise with my aids, correct in my position, crisp in my turns and approaches. I would be completely sure of myself as we headed to each fence, keeping my leg on even if the distance didn’t look like it would materialize. I would RIDE him. Enough is enough, self. Get over your fear and just DO it.

So I did.

I can’t help but be proud of our effort today. I finally broke through this pattern I’d gotten myself into of being a passive, non-assertive rider. Sure, he’ll cart me over anything, but will it be correct, pleasing to watch, fun? It hasn’t been so far. I’ve been frustrated and down after every jump school to this point. I have a nice horse who has a big heart and I was literally throwing it down the toilet with my riding.

Today, I was absolutely going to “git r done”. Eventing is not about looking poised and pretty getting 5 strides down the outside line. This is a bonus, but first and foremost your horse must be forward, straight, and listening to you as you approach a stadium fence. If he’s on the wrong lead, you kick on. If he’s looky at the fence, you funnel him in and kick on. If he’s losing momentum in the turn, you kick on and go forward out of the turn. I don’t know where I lost my nerve and confidence to kick on, but at some point I did. Pop is here to remind me what it feels like to RIDE.

It wasn’t perfect. We had several hiccups and several bad distances that resulted in poor jumping efforts. We missed several lead changes and blew at least one turn. But I’ll be darned if we didn’t have a course of 3 fences that felt absolutely perfect. Where I rode up, forward and straight and we were finally on the same page. Wow, what an amazing feeling on this dynamite little horse.

Now I know I CAN do it. I CAN.

Oh, and I love the Amerigo. It’s flap is just forward enough for my long leg and it’s the comfiest saddle in the world. I know the saddle doesn’t necessarily make you a better rider but when you’re not fighting your saddle for your position, it certainly helps! We’ll add it to the list of Things R’s Future Rich Husband Will Buy Her.

Went to the tack store to get last minute items (hair nets and boot socks) and my breeches and potential new show coat are in the mail and should be here by Thursday. Boots are getting more and more broken in with each day! I still need to learn my dressage test, clip Pop up, and fill out my medical armband…among 500 other things I need to do before Friday morning. I’m so excited to be back on the road again. Trunks are packed, stud kit is ready to go….just have a bunch more cleaning and packing to do in these next couple of days.

Started working with Champ’s big sister, Bonita, tonight. I just started teaching a young girl on her last weekend and her goal is to start taking her to jumper shows. I’m hoping to find the time to work with both her and Champ 2-3 times each week. Tonight was a good first session…she has a very workmanlike attitude and is quite smart. We just w/t/c and trotted a small fence to get a feel for each other. She is actually pretty nice to the base of a fence and although her canter definitely needs work, I’m sure a lot of it is lack of strength and using the correct muscles. Champ was quite offended that I didn’t work him tonight but he was such a star last night and I was running out of daylight. I will be clinging desperately to these last days of summer before it gets cold and dark outside *sad face*

Til next time!

Friday, August 19, 2011

Cross Country Schooling!

We’re nearing the end of the week with little to no end in sight as far as long hard days go! I have to say, despite the exhaustion, I’m learning so much and really having a blast prepping for our fall season. We have so many good horses in the barn and being busy is SUCH a better alternative to being slow and only having a few horses. We took a set cross-country schooling this morning and Poppers got to go. We started out by just trotting around the field and up and down hills on a light contact. I had a different bit on him today (thanks to Lizzie’s infinite kindness of not wanting me to be underbitted galloping around next weekend!) and it was a bit of a change for me…I have galloped with the 2-ring snaffles before but galloping a racehorse and cantering around xc is a bit different…so it took me a while to get used to keeping my hands quiet, and also to canter OFF his back as opposed to in the ring when I sit. He peeked at the warm-up fence (a small coop in the shadows) and I took my leg off, per usual. He felt so forward coming up to it that I forgot he might back off a stride out. Woops. The second time was a little better although I still felt a little loose in the tack and sloppy with my reins and upper body. Then we did a Novice-sized brush at the bottom of the hill and cantered up and around to a small log. I still felt disorganized coming to the brush but he jumped it better and then the log went well. He was really booking it around the turn and I got in his face a bit too much, forgetting that he didn’t have a plain snaffle in. He is a forgiving boy, though. We headed down to the water complex and just walked and trotted through a couple of times before doing a tiny, baby drop into it. What did I do? Naturally took my leg off and sat there as he came to a complete stop and refused to drop down. C had to remind me (in the harsh tone I deserved) to use my stick. I don’t know why my reaction time was so slow! I just froze. Nevertheless, one smack and he dropped down and cantered out. We did it several more times and he never peeked again. Then we practiced trotting over the baby ditch(my nemesis) and he was perfect over it! Lizzie told me that when we’re actually on course next weekend everything will seem easier because he’ll be rolling and in the zone and not peeking at things or questioning me. I am so excited to do it but so nervous too! I can’t believe Lizzie and C jump those HUGE fences and I’m nervous about Novice, haha. I’m hoping just going and doing it will ease my nerves a little bit. We shall see! One week and counting.

I also got the opportunity to jump Guppy over a couple of small fences. His stride might be the biggest stride I’ve ever sat on, he is INCREDIBLE but a completely different ride than Pop. I was quite sloppy on him I thought but C was happy.

The best news of the day is that Lizzie is a saint and one of the most generous people I’ve ever met…she is letting me borrow her GORGEOUS Amerigo saddle for Full Gallop next weekend. It is so nice and comfortable and fits Pop like a glove. She has no idea how much this means to me. We’re also working on finding me a show coat and breeches that are in my price range…her mom has a tack shop and is absolutely wonderful, doing all the research and stuff to find me the best product for my meager bank account. I’m so grateful to everyone (C included!) who is going above and beyond to help me do this sport. Without them I wouldn’t have a shot.

More long days headed my way so I better hit the sack! Have a great weekend!

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Busy Busy Busy!

Wow, I've had the busiest two days and the week is just starting! Got thrown right back into the mix after a FANTASTIC four days in Birmingham, AL with my best friend and her beautiful dressage horse. I was blessed to get to ride him while I was there and since he's so similar to Pop, I felt like I hardly missed a beat the whole vacation! So I came home and we have had a very busy two days with gallops, cross-country schools, and 11 horses to ride/work with each day. It's been pure bliss, though. I love staying busy and having long days. And lucky for me, I have understanding friends and an understanding boyfriend that don't mind hanging out well after normal dinner hours. :)

Poppers is doing well. We had a jump school yesterday with C. I didn't feel particularly confident afterwards...we had several really rough fences and I was having a hard time (despite my determination) getting him to stay straight and not jump to the left. We're still having trouble with right turns as well (he likes to be bent right so if I don't use BOTH reins to turn we just go right with the front end and the hind end doesn't come with). I did try to ride a bit more positively to the fences and not lose my leg about three strides out while I panic because I don't see a distance. He did save my butt several times (God Bless him for that!). We are going cross-country schooling Friday or Saturday so I'm hoping it'll all come together when we're out of the ring.

Our flat lesson today was very tough and we had some REALLY good moments. We worked on straightness in his body and lots of leg yields to keep his haunches where they're supposed to be. Leg yields might be my nemesis forever. I twist my body, I twist my arms, I break my wrists. I lost his hindend, I have too much inside bend...the list goes on and on. I tried to stay straight and push him over evenly but I'm not sure I accomplished that. He was a lot better to the left (thanks to C's schooling while I was in Bham). I was having trouble getting him to truly let go in his jaw and back in the left lead canter...but after realizing my elbows were locked, I relaxed and got the most perfect, beautiful, light and balanced canter in the world for about 10 meters of a 20 meter circle. Yay, big pat! Good boy! Then C, ever the optimist, asked us to go down the long side and I lost the canter when I failed to keep his haunches straight and they went left and the canter became choppy again. That's okay, though! I felt how it's supposed to feel when it's perfect and now I will be striving for that every ride! And his trotwork after the canter is always so, so much better. It'll be important to remember that when we are warming up for our dressage test at Full Gallop! I'm so excited and nervous about it...but we gotta start somewhere, right?

:) All the other ponies are doing great. They're all so much fun in their own ways. Devon is settling in well and his sweet nature has made him pretty impossible to not love. We're excited about the fall season starting soon and getting on the road again.

'Til next time!

Friday, August 5, 2011

Catching up...

There are about ten really good blog posts in my head right now and I can't seem to access any of them when I actually have a chance to write. So here are some mumblings from the past little bit...

Pop is doing really well, he got shod on Monday and had a day off after, and then after packing his feet that night he flatted on Wednesday and we had a jump school yesterday. It wasn't the best jump school we've had, partly because of my indecision and partly because I think he was a little rusty. He came out of it with a little pulse in both front feet so I packed them again and just trotted him today. He was really good and we worked hard in the field with S and Noah. I packed him again tonight just to be sure. His feet aren't hot, they just have a pretty decent pulse and the hoof packing usually takes care of that. So we'll probably flat tomorrow. He's such a good boy :)

We have a new tenant in the barn, which is always exciting but especially so when it's a horse of this caliber. Devon (better known to the public as Coal Creek) got here yesterday and we are excited to have him. He won Fair Hill several years ago with Amy Tryon and is a very, very cool little horse.

Miss Mazzie had her first ride today since arriving at our barn at the beginning of summer. She was excellent and we walked and trotted in the paddock with no problems. She is a bit timid to step out and really trot forward (would rather go up and down) but seems very willing to learn. She was calm and all of the lunging we've done has really paid off. I'm excited to keep working with her! She is going through a bit of a growth spurt and today measured right at 15.3hh.

I got the priviledge of jumping Flaggles through a grid this morning. I've been REALLY blessed to have a lot of extra saddle time lately on some really cool horses. In addition to Flag I've gotten to jump Allegra and a really nice hunter, Roc. It's a blast trying to figure each horse out and learn how to ride them best. It's also great getting more experience jumping, because every fence I jump can help me learn to ride Pop better. Flag was great today, he is a very round and scopey jumper and really gives you a feeling of confidence. We did a placing pole to a cross-rail to a placing pole to a vertical to a cross-rail two strides to a decent sized oxer, and our last trip through felt really good and straight and connected. He's a blast!

Champ has been an angel this week, I rode him in the paddock yesterday by himself and he was a little nappy about leaving the barn and walking up the little hill (groan so hard for a fat butt to do hillwork!) but he was obedient and calm and that's about all I can ask for. He's such a good boy, he always puts a smile on my face. I really love working with the babies, they are so rewarding and it's so much fun to learn about them, their learning styles, and watching them improve and watching the lightbulbs go off in their heads. He's been such an easy boy to start and work with, he is an absolute joy.

We have 11 horses in training right now, which is the most we've had since I started working here. It's very, very busy (especially with the heat and rushing to get done before it gets unbearable) but it's a good busy, and we're gearing up for Full Gallop in a few weeks. Monkee, Guppy, Ardy, Poppers, Benny and Devon are on target to go. I am trying so hard to get my show clothes purchased before then...i just need a pair of non-white breeches and a show coat right now, I think....I have show shirts, white breeches, and my boots just came home yesterday with their new zippers :) They fit pretty darn well and I can't wait to break them in!

That's about all the big news I can think of! Except the fact I get to visit my dear friend Katie ( in a week and ride her beautiful and fancy fancy fancy TB gelding, Jay-R. I can't wait!!